Monday, August 08, 2005

Great stuff from SI on "high tech" offenses

I'm interested by this subject in part because Florida is going to be running the funkiest of new offenses this year, thus testing what happens when a major superpower gets innovative as opposed to a Texas Tech or a Louisville. I'm also interested because my friend Ben has been proclaiming for years that "the spread is dead," even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
All you need to know about Ben and his Bushian ability to ignore facts and restate his conclusions is this: he went to the 2003 Texas-Texas Tech game, which allowed him to watch in person Mike Leach's offense put up 40 points on one of the better defenses in college football, and yet he returned convinced that the game did not disprove his irrationally-held belief. (On the other hand, I dismissed his argument that pitchers took steroids and it turns out that he had a point, although my overall argument that steroid use played a role in the late 90s offensive boom seems beyond question to anyone with a semi-open mind.)

Back to the article: it isn't quite as good as Blue-Gray Sky's take on the Meyer offense, mainly because Stewart Mandel has to write for a much larger, lest technically savvy audience, but it does have nice illustrations of base plays in the offenses featured in the article. Urban, for instance, diagrams his option play where the tailback takes the fullback role and one of the wide receivers functions as a trailer. Helpfully, the defense is static during the play and Meyer's quarterback gets to the corner easily. The play illustrated the importance of defensive ends getting upfield, although it also showed the brilliance of Meyer's design. Previously, a shotgun option could be blown up by defensive ends getting upfield. By adding a triple option element by using a receiver as the trailer instead of the running back, Meyer cuts down on this.

The article also makes me like Joe Tiller less. He's oft-whining about having less talent than Michigan and Ohio State and he of course does so in the article, stating that their talent overwhelms better schemes. While he's theoretically correct in saying that, it isn't as if Michigan hasn't been gashed by other schemes using less talented players (see: Michigan State.) Tiller's scheme has also been figured out by most of the rest of the Big Ten. If anything, he's basically Mark Richt: an offensive guy who relies on a great defensive coordinator, only he doesn't have Richt's talent and he inevitably makes goofy decisions in close games. Don't get me wrong, I like Tiller and he's brought the Big Ten somewhat out of the stone age, but he's complained one too many times about opposing DBs being mean to his receivers.

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